Cover Image: Wa - The Art of Balance

Wa - The Art of Balance

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Member Reviews

A beautifully illustrated guide to 4 simple and easy-to-adopt daily practices based on the Japanese lifestyle: Nourish, Move, Rest and Socialize.

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The whole book didn't go as deep as I initially thought after reading the blurb (it's a very short text, rather), but it did provide some good points at each pillar. I especially liked the Nourish pillar as it pulled back the curtain on Japanese living and showcased principles that can be easily applied worldwide.
What didn't really do it for me was the tone of the book. It read very dry and rather stilted for a lot of chapters (actually, the strongest part was Nourish, and the rest felt repetitive and rather surface-y). I was expecting the level of detail and principles of the Nourish section, which opened the book strongly, but sadly, it felt like this didn't carry through.

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This book has now been archived so I believe my review will not be helpful, but the book is very well thought-out and informative. I really enjoyed the anecdotes and the illustrations.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book; it has had a very positive impact on me.

Thank you NetGalley for my complimentary copy in return for my honest review.

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Allow yourself a more balanced way of life

I really enjoyed this book. Wa, the Japanese way of balance, contains a lot of common sense and compassion for ourselves and others.

From not being too hard on ourselves in terms of diet and exercise to how important connection with others is to our health. There are some really interesting insights to Japanese philosophy and culture, including tempting recipes and explanations of some of the Japanese characters, or kanji, and how they are combined to create new words and concepts.

I found this a very grounding read and finished it feeling refreshed and thoughtful. I gained some really useful insights from this book and hope you will too.

I was given this book from the author via netgalley only for the pleasure of reading and leaving an honest review should I choose to.

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It all makes perfect sense, I love the Japanese way of living and this book can explain some of the myths. The illustrations are lovely and carefully planned. The book is about wellness, your wellness and you can choose to take away what suits you however you will gain a greater understanding of balance in your life. The evidence is there, want to live a long and healthy life? learn from the Japanese. Lovely book. Thank you #NetGalley fro the e-book to review.

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This is an interesting book with some lovely illustrations. I'm always curious about how other cultures view life and how they go about things. This book provides some interesting insights.

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I definitely have mixed feelings on this one.

On the one hand, Wa as a book brings some really core elements of Japanese living into Western sight, and the author is not wrong that we (as a very generalised population) have a lot of issues with some of the pillars mentioned. Through our own habits or society's pushing (for the sake of making money usually), we are exposed to larger portions, cheaper processed food, promises of quick fixes and easy solutions to life's problems (for a price). There are lessons to be learnt from the Japanese culture that the author works through in 4 clear sections, and each one does have some important points.

My concern, as others here have mentioned, is the strong focus on weight as an equivalent to health, and a lack of inclusion or understanding around Disabled people or anyone without the ability to follow along with some of the instructions. I would encourage people to look into books like The Obesity Code by Dr Jason Fung or some of Tim Spector or Michael Mosley's work on the subject of diet and weight. I don't disagree there are links, but it seems a little one track in this book. Some of the writing felt a little preachy and repetitive, but that could be subjective.

I do find the pillars interesting, and there is certainly a focus on that balanced middle approach, which is good, but I would just put a caution in to anyone like myself with a history of chronic dieting and body dysmorphia, or any ED history, that this may not be the book for you.

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As a reader who lived in Japan for many years, I wasn't expecting to learn anything new, but rather was curious to see what would be presented and how.
First of all, the illustrations are lovely and add a lot to the book in terms of presentation. I also thought it was quite readable and the author did a lot to offer variety such as adding in her own experiences, recipes, Japanese vocabulary etc. All in all, it was a sweet little book.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this balanced books.

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Unfortunately, "Wa..." is just another diet manual, riding the wave of books that fall under the umbrella "other cultures do it better". Having cited quite a few researches, Kaki Okumura doesn't feel like giving the history of body positivity movement the same due diligence, and offers opinions on it rather than understanding of the subject. But hey, "Wa..." seems to be more about the author's weight loss journey and confusing thinness with health anyway.

That being said, the amount of space that is given to dieting masked as "finding balance" comes across as very fat-phobic and I'm afraid this book may be triggering to readers with active/previous eating disorders, as well as those struggling with body image.

I expected something different and more nourishing (pun intended) than another diet book. Beautiful graphics don't make up for the content.

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This book is a thought provoking little gem! The insight into Japanese culture was fascinating and the author really brings to life how you can incorporate small changes into the four key areas of your lifestyle to improve your health and overall wellbeing. Beautifully illustrated and the recipes dotted throughout added an extra layer of interest and inspiration.

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Who doesn't want to live a healthier, happier and longer life? I do and I approached this book with an open mind and a ton of curiosity.

The author explores the four areas (or pillars) that, if made to balance, will help you do just that: nourishment, movement, rest and socialising.

Complemented by beautifully delicate illustrations, the advice given is actionable and made relatable through the author's own experiences.

A book that I will surely be coming back to!

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I wasn't entirely sold on this book to begin with. I thought it was a cook book masquerading as self-help (there are quite a few recipes included). However it grew on me. I found it very interesting even though it is filled with mere common sense. You do still need someone to point out the obvious when you're stuck in a downward spiral particularly.

In Wa we are given a common sense approach to life from the Japanese point of view and you can't really argue with a race that has some of the healthiest and long lived individuals on the planet.

I've been fascinated by Japanese history and culture for quite a while. So, whilst trying to learn the language it is important to understand a culture that is quite alien in the western world. I won't give anything away but the Japanese way of looking at life, health, eating and socialising is as different as it is attractive.

I'd recommend the book to anyone who'd like to alter the way they look at the world. I found the recipes easy to follow and I learned more about Japanese thinking. An interesting read.

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Wa-The Art of Balance was an interesting read about the Japanese belief that to live well is to live in balance. It describes the 4 pillars of balance: nourish, move, rest, socialize. Wa is an easy read and the aspects of balance described in the book are gentle instead of restrictive.

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Kaki Okumu is a Japanese-American nutritional therapy practitioner. She writes on Japanese food, fitness, lifestyle and health. Wa – the art of balance is a self-help book that aims to answer the question: How can we live healthfully?

With a background of growing up across two cultures, she challenges the mindset that sees health as calorie-counting and going to the gym, and underlines the interrelationship between our physical and mental health. Her delicate water colours and Japanese recipes are scattered through the book adding an extra layer of interest.

In Japanese, Wa means the art of balance and she frames health through four essential pillars, each as important as the other: it’s a matter of support and live well is to live in balance

Kaki Okumu uses research and her own personal experience to make recommendations for each ‘pillar’.

In Nourish she looks at portion size: in Japan, a Burger King small fries is only 75g, while in the US it’s 130g and in the UK 116g. It’s hardly surprising there’s an obesity epidemic in the west while Japan is one of the leading countries for low obesity and also longevity. She criticises the obsession with healthy/unhealthy food. We need balance, variety, smaller portions, and to cook our own food – it’s about being in control of what goes in your body.

In Move she describes how walking is a normal part of life in Japan, and exercise is done for pleasure, not because of a fear of negative consequences. It’s all about regaining quality of life through incorporating movement as a habit, perhaps stretching each day for a few minutes or walking to the shops instead of driving. As with many self-help writers, she talks about how important it is to spend time in nature, and how this is regularly prescribed by doctors.

Exercise that we do not enjoy is exercise we do not continue.

Rest looks at the benefit of slowing down and not always being busy. We kid ourselves that scrolling through social media is restful, but it’s only a distraction. We need to change the idea of rest: engaging in an activity that allows one to feel refreshed or recover strength. Here she recommends a playful mindset to lean into curiosity looking at tiny details and being in the moment – mindfulness in other words. Also caring for our own surroundings. Not necessarily minimalist, but getting rid of clutter, even creating an area in your home for quiet contemplation, in the Buddhist tradition, and cultivating a sense of gratitude.

The final section, Socialise stresses the importance of being with other people. A Harvard study of Adult development found that the most important determinant for happiness and health in participants was the strength of their relationships with their family, friends and community. Kaki Okumu quotes research that shows even small encounters are valuable – talking to the postman or to the shop assistant makes people feel happier and more secure in their community. She also mentions actively listening when we’re in conversation with someone, and the importance of omoiyari: anticipating someone else’s needs. She quotes Japanese fans’ behaviour at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They’d lost the match, but surprised other fans by cleaning their rows and seats with rubbish bags they’d brought themselves. So instead of feeling a sense of loss they felt proud: by shifting our focus we can shape the narrative of how we’re supposed to feel.

My only quibble is with the often repetitive nature of the writing – the book would be two thirds as long if this was addressed. However, I enjoyed Wa – the art of balance and many of the recommendations seem practical. I also found the examples of Japanese words and culture fascinating. I’m keen to try out some of the recipes.

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I was so excited to read this but sadly it was almost illegible due to formatting issues

Such a shame as it had real promise

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I was very excited to be accepted for an ARC of this book, but unfortunately what I was hoping to gain and what I actually gained ended up being very different to one another. 

On the surface, this is a book that will explore four areas, or 'pillars' of Japanese living, focusing on nourishment, rest, movement and socialisation. I was expecting a book full of Japanese customs and to learn about the Japanese way of life in a way that would make me rethink my own way of living. 

Firstly, the things I liked. I did learn more about certain aspects of Japanese living and will be looking more into the idea of creating an altar at home to pray to. I loved the recipes featured and have found a new inspiration to try more Japanese food and maybe even give tofu another try! 

Unfortunately that's where it ended for me. 

While the book did give me some moments of thought, I found that the presentation was lacking. The introduction made me very eager to dive in but by halfway through the first pillar I was bored. The book read to me more like someone's PhD thesis than a book that gave me the joy of learning another culture. I honestly felt like I was reading an academic text and struggled to want to keep reading. I also personally felt there was far too much repetition with the author finding multiple ways to say the same thing throughout. 

I also felt that the author put a bit too much emphasis on weight and food. She started the nourish chapter strong by saying that nourishment isn't only about food, and I hoped for more, but then continued to spend the rest of the chapter solely discussing food. There was also very little accommodation or mention of people who may have health problems that stop them doing the things mentioned and at times it felt there was an air of "I can do it, so can you!" which felt a little preachy and ableist. 

All in all this did have some interesting bits of information but for each chapter, the first couple of paragraphs pretty much contained all I needed to know and I ended up skimming through a lot of the book because I don't enjoy page after page of statistics or comparing Japan to the western world. This unfortunately wasn't the book I'd been hoping for and wasn't a good fit for me.

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I would struggle to be able to review this book due to issues with the file/download. The issues stopped the flow of the book. The issues are:
- Missing words in the middle of sentences
- Stop/start sentences on different lines
- No clear definition of chapters.

I’m not sure if it was a file/download issue but there were lots of gaps and stops/starts which really ruined the flow. I would love the chance to read a better version as the description of the book appeals to me.

The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.

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The definition of the right book at the right time. In this little book, the author takes a fresh approach of how important is to balance it all.

There are some great tips and some truths about how easily we can actually learn how to truly take care of ourselves.

It’s an easy read, short chapters and some lovely, calming illustrations. There is lots of advice which I’ll be implementing in my daily routine.

Thank you to NetGalley for the free ARC!

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I didn't always related to the content here, but that's on me. There are some very good approaches and ideas presented here. I'll use some of these perspectives moving forward, and enjoyed learning some new things along the way.

Thanks very much for the free ARC for review!!

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